Friday, December 21, 2012

on my heart this past week

It's been exactly a week since the sad events happened in Connecticut. Like you, my heart has been heavy and sad, and also full of gratitude for my little family. I wasn't going to write about it here, since the topic has been visited so much, but I have had so many thoughts on my mind, and two specific personal stories that have not left my mind. So as part of my tribute to the victims, families, and community of Newtown, I'm adding my thoughts.

I'll start by saying that as horrific and gruesome as it is, I have tried so hard to stay away from the news coverage and details of it all. My husband and I talked about it and cried about it one night. After dealing with our emotions, and deciding what we would say to our own children, we concluded that it would be best to not let the details linger in our home. That doesn't mean that it hasn't been on my heart every single day, especially thinking about my own little daughter in 1st Grade, and how scary it was for the little children in CT. But I feel like those sweet angels would want us to move forward, to treasure the time we have with our babies, to not be sad, but to live every day to its fullest, to love our babies, be good parents and citizens, and count our precious blessings.

This brings me to my first story. It was an experience that helped shape me as a child, and the lessons I learned affect my parenting to this day. When I was 9 years old, I lived in a small community just outside of Ft. Hood, Texas. On a normal October day in 1991, a crazy man drove his truck through a local restaurant, and opened fire, shooting 50 people and killing 23. My father, who is an ER doctor, was called in to help manage the mass casualty and injury situation. The entire community was rocked and shaken. It was devastating. You can read about it here. It was neighbors, soccer coaches, preachers-- good and normal people-- whose lives were taken that day. I was scared and had a hard time sleeping after that. Thankfully, my parents prayed with me and comforted me the best they could. I clearly remember a very important lesson I learned from the situation. I was at dance class, and my teacher, Mrs. Tracy, could tell that we were just too numb to be able to dance. She decided to take a time out, and right there on the dance floor, we all sat in a circle, and while doing stretches, she let us cry it out and talk about it. Once we had gained our composure, she wrapped it up with a simple statement that has had a huge impression on me. She said, "Live every day like it could be the last time you see your family. Never miss a chance to tell someone you love them." I will never, ever forget her inspired words of wisdom that day. I am not perfect, but internally, this has always been a personal mantra that I strive to live by.

My next story happened to me when I was just a kindergartener. It was exactly this time of year. Our family was stationed at the Army Post called Ft. Irwin, in Southern California. My mom had taken me, my older sister, and our baby sister, to the nearby city, San Bernadino, to do some Christmas shopping at Toys R Us. It was dusk as we were getting out of the car, and getting ready to walk from the parking lot and into the store. From around a corner, two young men started yelling at us, and out emerged two guns. We were being robbed and held at gunpoint. Immediately, my wise mother gave them her purse, containing all our cash and credit cards, and we started screaming and running toward the store. Her friend who had come with us, put up a fight, and they beat her up and left her lying in a pool of blood. My mom thought she was dead. As we were running into the store, someone eventually figured out what was going and and helped us. The fire men and police men took good care of us. Eventually the men were found and charged with their crime. As you can imagine, this is one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me, and I hardly ever talk about it. So many miracles happened that day. Our lives were spared, including my mom's injured friend. Even though I was so little, I remember these events very clearly. Since then, I have been slightly paranoid, but always cautious. I often wonder why our lives were spared that day. I hope I am fulfilling the things that I still need to do while on this earth.

Truly, the only thing that brings me comfort in scary times like this is my belief in life after death. I believe that all those children who died in CT are safe with their Heavenly Father now, and that I know they will have the opportunity to be reunited with their families again someday. Without a doubt, I believe that we must work hard in this life to be honest, loving, faithful, and hard working. If we do what is right, I believe we will have the opportunity to live again in heaven with God and Jesus, and those we love. I look to the strong examples of people in my life who have suffered loss and hardship. When and if tragedy strikes my life, I pray to be strong, to not lose my faith. If I know I'm doing all I can do to be a good person in this life, to love and help others, then really there is nothing to be afraid of. It doesn't mean that life will be perfect, without suffering and hardships, but it is better to have faith and find comfort instead of living our lives in fear.

This is a video that my little sister just recorded with her University Choir, and Alex Boye. It is dedicated to the Sandy Hook community. I love it.


In other news, my husband and I celebrated our 9th Anniversary yesterday! We are enjoying time with his family for Christmas.

I hope that you are enjoying your holiday season with your loved ones. Take the time to unplug, to play and laugh with your families, to embrace your life- even with its imperfections.

16 comments:

Steph @ Crafting in the Rain said...

Thanks for sharing Rach--I think we've tried to handle things similarly in our house too. And happy anniversary!!

Elisa said...

I feel like your personal experiences merit a comment of some kind, so you know those personal feelings didn't just go out into cyberspace unheard. Yet I don't quite know what response is meaningful enough to balance the depth you've shared. I can't believe you, someone I know, has had such terrifying things happen to you. And you are a model of positivity and light. I am humbled by your contribution today, and find hope in your ability to grow up into a woman with joy who lives LIFE without trepidation (at least outwardly). I hope that those families might not have the beauty of life forever tainted in their eyes, but that they can be happy again too.

Mina said...

Hi Rachel, I worked with Troy at the U of M and saw this when you posted the link on Facebook. I wanted to express my admiration for you as well (the commenter above me says it nicely). Thank you for sharing of yourself so bravely. ~Mina

Patricia Purcell said...

Thank you for sharing your stories. I too, believe that those beautiful children (and adults) are at peace now, and someday their families will see them again.

Self Sagacity said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I too have had some shares of these events you mentioned. Merry Christmas.

Mindelicious said...

I just keep hoping Christmas for these families will be sweeter this year, as they celebrate the birth, life and death of Him who made it possible to be reunited with their babies.

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